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Ecclesia Dei is the document Pope John Paul II issued on 2 July 1988 in reaction to the Ecône Consecrations, despite an express prohibition by the Holy See. It said that the two consecrating bishops and the four priests they consecrated were excommunicated. John Paul called for unity and established the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei to foster a dialog with those associated with the consecrations who hoped to maintain both loyalty to the papacy and their attachment to traditional liturgical forms.
As is customary for such a papal document, it takes its name from the opening words of its Latin text, Ecclesia Dei, meaning "God's Church".
On 30 June 1988, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and Bishop Antônio de Castro Mayer consecrated four priests as bishops at the seminary of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) in Écône, Switzerland. The SSPX was an association of priests that Lefebvre had founded in 1970. Its members distrusted the changes then taking place in the Church in the years following the Second Vatican Council. Referring to these consecrations, the Pope wrote in Ecclesia Dei: "In itself, this act was one of disobedience to the Roman Pontiff in a very grave matter and of supreme importance for the unity of the Church, such as is the ordination of bishops whereby the apostolic succession is sacramentally perpetuated. Hence such disobedience – which implies in practice the rejection of the Roman primacy – constitutes a schismatic act (cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 751). In performing such an act, notwithstanding the formal canonical warning sent to them by the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops on 17 June last, Mons. Lefebvre and the priests Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta have incurred the grave penalty of excommunication envisaged by ecclesiastical law (cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 1382)."
Pope John Paul II went on to make "an appeal both solemn and heartfelt, paternal and fraternal, to all those who until now have been linked in various ways to the movement of Archbishop Lefebvre, that they may fulfil the grave duty of remaining united to the Vicar of Christ in the unity of the Catholic Church, and of ceasing their support in any way for that movement. Everyone should be aware that formal adherence to the schism is a grave offence against God and carries the penalty of excommunication decreed by the Church's law (cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 1364)."
The Pope instituted the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei to assist those who had been associated with Archbishop Lefebvre but who wished "to remain united to the Successor of Peter in the Catholic Church, while preserving their spiritual and liturgical traditions, in the light of the Protocol signed on 5 May last by Cardinal Ratzinger and Mons. Lefebvre",a protocol that Archbishop Lefebvre later repudiated.
The Pope stated: "Respect must everywhere be shown for the feelings of all those who are attached to the Latin liturgical tradition, by a wide and generous application of the directives already issued some time ago by the Apostolic See for the use of the Roman Missal according to the typical edition of 1962". In this the Pope expanded the scope of permission already granted under the 1984 special indult Quattuor Abhinc Annos .
The conditions indicated in the document to which Pope John Paul referred were replaced on 7 July 2007 by those indicated in the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum .
Pope Benedict XVI gave the Commission additional functions with respect to the use of Tridentine liturgy in Summorum Pontificum on 7 July 2007. On 8 July 2009, in Ecclesiae unitatem , he modified its position within the Roman Curia by making the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) the ex officio head of the Commission. On 17 January 2019, Pope Francis abolished the Commission and transferred its responsibilities to a "special section" within the CDF.
Marcel François Marie Joseph Lefebvre was a French Roman Catholic archbishop. In 1970, he founded the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) as a small community of seminarians in the village of Écône, Switzerland, with the permission of Bishop François Charrière of Fribourg. In 1975, after a flare of tensions with the Holy See, Lefebvre was ordered to disband the society, but ignored the decision. In 1988, against the expressed prohibition of Pope John Paul II, he consecrated four bishops to continue his work with the SSPX. The Holy See immediately declared that he and the other bishops who had participated in the ceremony had incurred automatic excommunication under Catholic canon law, a status Lefebvre refused to acknowledge to his death three years later.
The Tridentine Mass, also known as the Traditional Latin Mass or Usus Antiquior, is the Roman Rite Mass of the Catholic Church. It appears in typical editions of the Roman Missal published from 1570 to 1962. Celebrated exclusively in Ecclesiastical Latin, it was the most widely used Eucharistic liturgy in the world from its issuance in 1570 until the introduction of the Mass of Paul VI.
Traditionalist Catholicism is a set of religious beliefs and practices comprising customs, traditions, liturgical forms, public and private, individual and collective devotions, and presentations of Catholic Church teachings that were in vogue in the decades that immediately preceded the Second Vatican Council (1962–65). It is associated in particular with attachment to the 1570–1970 form of the Roman Rite Mass, which traditionalist Catholics call the Traditional Latin Mass or TLM or the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.
The Society of Saint Pius X, also known as the SSPX, or the FSSPX, is an international priestly fraternity founded in 1970 by Marcel Lefebvre, the traditionalist French archbishop who later clashed with the Holy See over the Society.
Richard Nelson Williamson is an English traditionalist bishop formerly in communion with the Catholic Church who opposes the changes in the Church brought about by the Second Vatican Council. He was originally a member of the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX). He was subsequently excommunicated; this was lifted in 2009, but Williamson was convicted in German courts of denying the Holocaust and incitement related to those views, and the excommunication was reimposed by the Pope. Due to other actions, Williamson was expelled from the society in 2012 and once again excommunicated in 2015.
The Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter is a traditionalist Catholic society of apostolic life for priests and seminarians which is in communion with the Holy See.
Darío del Niño Jesús Castrillón Hoyos was a Colombian cardinal of the Catholic Church. He was Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy from 1996 to 2006 and President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei from 2000 until his retirement in 2009. He was made a cardinal in 1998.
Indult Catholic was a traditionalist Catholic loaded term used from the early 21st century until 2007 as a pejorative label applied to Catholics who attended only the licit celebrations of the Tridentine Mass in Latin according to the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal and regulated by the local bishop through an indult that conformed to the 1984 Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments norms in the ecclesiastical letter Quattuor abhinc annos.
Bernard Fellay, SSPX is a Swiss bishop and former superior general of the Traditionalist Catholic Society of Saint Pius X. In 1988, Pope John Paul II announced that Fellay and three others were automatically excommunicated for being consecrated as bishops by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, an act that the Holy See described as "unlawful" and "schismatic". Archbishop Lefebvre, and Bishop Antônio de Castro Mayer who co-consecrated these four bishops, were also excommunicated. At that time, he was the youngest bishop of the Roman Catholic Church at 29 years old.
Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, SSPX is a French Traditionalist bishop of the Society of Saint Pius X.
Alfonso de Galarreta Genua, SSPX, is a Spanish-Argentine bishop of the Society of Saint Pius X. He was declared excommunicated latae sententiae by Pope John Paul II because of his unauthorized consecration by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988, deemed by the Holy See to be "unlawful" and "a schismatic act". The SSPX denied the validity of the excommunication, saying that the consecrations were necessary due to a moral and theological crisis in the Catholic Church. The automatic excommunication was remitted by the Holy See on 21 January 2009.
Quattuor abhinc annos is the incipit of a letter that the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments sent on 3 October 1984 to presidents of episcopal conferences concerning celebration of Mass in the Tridentine form.
The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei was a commission of the Catholic Church established by Pope John Paul II's motu proprioEcclesia Dei of 2 July 1988 for the care of those former followers of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre who broke with him as a result of his consecration of four priests of his Society of St. Pius X as bishops on 30 June 1988, an act that the Holy See deemed illicit and a schismatic act. It was also tasked with trying to return to full communion with the Holy See those traditionalist Catholics who are in a state of separation, of whom the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) is foremost, and of helping to satisfy just aspirations of people unconnected with these groups who want to keep alive the pre-1970 Roman Rite liturgy.
Antonio Cañizares Llovera is a Spanish Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church who is the Archbishop of Valencia. He is the former Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments from 2008 to 2014, and former Archbishop of Toledo and Primate of Spain from 2002 to 2008. He was elevated to the cardinalate in 2006. He was appointed Archbishop of Valencia in August 2014, a move which removed him from the Congregation.
The Écône consecrations were a set of episcopal consecrations that took place in Écône, Switzerland, on 30 June 1988. They were performed by Catholic Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and Bishop Antonio de Castro Meyer, and the priests raised to the episcopacy were four members of Lefebvre's Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX). The consecrations, performed against the explicit orders of Pope John Paul II, represented a milestone in the troubled relationship of Lefebvre and the SSPX with the Church leadership. The Holy See's Congregation for Bishops issued a decree signed by its Prefect Cardinal Bernardin Gantin declaring that Lefebvre had incurred automatic excommunication by consecrating the bishops without papal consent.
Summorum Pontificum is an apostolic letter of Pope Benedict XVI, issued in July 2007, which specifies the circumstances in which priests of the Latin Church may celebrate Mass according to what he calls the "Missal promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962", and administer most of the sacraments in the form used before the liturgical reforms that followed the Second Vatican Council.
Philippe Laguérie is a French Traditionalist Catholic priest. He is the Superior General of the Institute of the Good Shepherd, which upholds the Tridentine Mass.
For a number of years after the 1988 consecrations, there was little if any dialogue between the Society of St. Pius X and the Holy See. This state of affairs ended when the Society led a large pilgrimage to Rome for the Jubilee in the year 2000.
The canonical situation of the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), a group founded in 1970 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, is unresolved.
Monseigneur Lefebvre, un évêque dans la tempête is a 2012 documentary film by French director Jacques-Régis du Cray, primarily based on the biography A biography of Archbishop Lefebvre written by Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais.